Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Incestuous Non-Prosecution Of Elliot Spitzer

According to an AP report, former Attorney General and Governor of New York Elliot Spitzer was hoisted by his own petard because the so called “dirty tricks” commonly employed by attorney generals in this the land of the free and home of the brave were not transferable once Spitzer had become governor of New York.

The canary who sang to Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares was Spitzer’s former communication director Darren Dopp.

Before Dopp began his employment with then Attorney General Spitzer, he was a reporter for the Associated Press. In his previous capacity, Dopp likely would have gone to jail to protect his source. As communications director for Governor Spitzer, Dopp was just a yeoman functionary attempting to burnish the public persona of his boss. He was successful in this possibly because he had friends in high places within the journalistic community. When Dopp was threatened with jail, he began to sing.

Dopp told Soares that Spitzer had “directly ordered him in a profanity-laced exchange to give a reporter records regarding Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno's use of state aircraft on days he attended Republican fundraisers,” according to the AP report.

Sores procured the information from Dopp in the time honored manner: He threatened to prosecute Dopp unless the chatty former communications director spilled the beans. In the post Omerta age, when even hardboiled Mafia hit men can be induced to rat on Da’Boss, such squealing is common. Then the carrot and stick DA offered Dopp immunity from prosecution if he would agree to sing, an offer Dopp could not refuse.

Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno, the object of Spitzer’s spitballs, now claims that Soares’ report furnishes “proof that Spitzer lied to the public and was obsessed with a ‘political hit job’ on him. ‘The scandal was a blatant abuse of government power,’ he said.”

Alas, too true.

Soares (pronounced “Sorry” with an “s”) prosecuted neither Dopp, who faced a possible perjury charge, nor Spitzer. Dopp unclenched himself from Soares’ iron grip in return for his canary’s song, and Spitzer escaped prosecution by vacating his office.

It may strike some as disappointing that, under Soares’ supervision, Spitzer’s smear job was headed for the usual political resolution. Spitzer blamed the leaked information regarding Bruno’s purported misuse of travel funds on his exuberant aides, some of whom he had carried with him into the governor’s office from his former gig as attorney general. One of the aides Spitzer threw down the manhole was former AP reporter Dopp. Spitzer then apologized to Bruno.

Both Spitzer and Soares are Democrats. So is the present Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who ratted out the two Spitzer aides that misused state police to compile records of Bruno's use of state aircraft.

All very incestuous, which is to say, all very political.

According to the AP report, Soares had already brushed off the case: “In September, Soares issued a report saying no one in the Spitzer administration acted improperly and that there was no evidence of a plot to discredit Bruno.”

Soares decided to “revisited the case,” according to the AP report, “after a statement provided for him by Spitzer administration lawyers seemed to conflict with Dopp's testimony to the state Public Integrity Commission, which is also investigating. Dopp was questioned by Soares during the second investigation.”

At which point, canaries sang and deals were arranged -- no prosecution of Dopp, the former AP reporter who served Spitzer for eight years when he was New York Attorney General; and no prosecution of Spitzer.

Soares used Dopp’s testimony to threaten Spitzer with prosecution. The testimony incontrovertibly implicated Spitzer:

“Friday's report said that at first, in May 2007, Spitzer just wanted to ‘monitor the situation’ after Dopp said a reporter asked for Bruno's flight records. But in June, when Bruno was blocking Spitzer's initiatives in the Legislature, top Spitzer aides discussed providing the flight records to "the feds" after they read in the newspaper that Bruno was being investigated by the FBI for business dealings.

“Dopp said that on June 25 or June 26, governor's Secretary Rich Baum told him, ‘Eliot wants you to release the records.’

“Dopp said he went into Spitzer's office to make sure. ‘According to Dopp, the governor replied, “Yeah, do it,”’ the Soares report said.

“Dopp asked Spitzer: ‘Are you sure?'" noting Bruno would be angry.

“Dopp said Spitzer then used vulgarities to describe Bruno and ordered Dopp to ‘shove it up his (expletive) with a red-hot poker.’

“’He was drinking a cup of coffee,’ Dopp told investigators, ‘as he was saying it, he was like spitting a little bit. He was spitting mad.’

“The report stated: ‘When asked whether he considered the governor telling him to release the records was a directive, Dopp stated that, “You couldn't mistake that based upon the words that were used.””

On the basis of the “discrepancies” between testimony given by Spitzer and Dopp, Soares easily could have prosecuted Spitzer on a charge of obstruction of justice, even thought Spitzer had not testified under oath. Public officials in New York are bound by a statute that requires them to answer questions truthfully or face a charge of obstructing justice. Spitzer had not done this.

Happily – for Spitzer, Soares and Cuomo, all Democrats – the prostitution ring scandal soon enveloped Spitzer, and he was persuaded to retire, making any prosecution moot. The statute allowing prosecution applies only to those holding office, and Spitzer had retired from office.

All very incestuous.
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